Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Lodge Grass resident Quincy Dabney, director of Arise LG, talks to fellow participants Sunday afternoon during an idea lab workshop. Funding for this event and more is provided through a $60,000 grant from Raising Places.Justice Parisi (center) works to come up with suggestions during Sunday’s idea lab, along with fellow participants Amarelle Dabney (left) and Lilyan Doyle (right).

‘Going after Lodge Grass’

Ideas for community improvement from local residents fill Lodge Grass High School hallway
Suggestions for a stronger community dotted the walls of Lodge Grass High School as part of an idea lab workshop on Sunday. Activities were buffered by participation from more than 40 adults and children, most of whom put up their thoughts.
 
One note showed depictions of a girl named Ruby and a baby saying “goo, goo,” and stated in a younger person’s handwriting, “I like to help babys, kids younger than 9 and kids that need help with stuf I can do.”
 
Another showed scenes with stick figures labeled “Brotherhood” and “Sisterhood,” with the brother offering to go fish with his sibling and the sister deciding to help her own sibling with beadwork.
 
Still another recommended: “Add moments or activities that address Crow values through open conversation at regular community feeds.”
 
The idea lab is one of a series of workshops underway in Lodge Grass and many residents are hopeful they may help spur a social, cultural and economic upswing in the town. To this end, Bighorn Valley Health Center in Hardin combined with Greater Good Studio, a social impact design firm based in Chicago, to help solve community challenges.
 
Problems cited by residents of the Crow Reservation town include drug use, gang activity, and a lack of law enforcement presence or social activities. A push toward positive change, according to multiple residents, started in the aftermath of a triple homicide on Aug. 4.
 
Community events organized shortly after the shooting included a candlelight vigil on Aug. 11, and painting activities and a prayer parade as part of the Jump Start Healing initiative on Aug. 27.
 
Resident Quincy Dabney, who remembers biking everywhere as a child before people became more lax in following street laws, said he wants his children to learn “the respect, the honor and the culture” befitting Crow tribal people. He has high hopes for Lodge Grass and the current workshops only increase his conviction.
 
“I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen. It’s going to be huge,” he said. “I believe that Lodge Grass actually is going to be the blueprint for other cities, other communities, other towns and – eventually, going big – other nations.”
 
Workshops, set to continue during a nine-month period, are funded through a $60,000 grant from Raising Places, which – like Greater Good Studio – is based in Chicago. Raising Places works through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to “catalyze local momentum in building healthier communities where all children and their families can thrive.” Lodge Grass was one of six communities to receive the grant out of more than 150 applicants.
 
Dabney, along with his wife, is one of the local design team’s 12 group members. He also is director of a local community improvement organization, Arise LG.
 
“The interesting thing about it is a lot of us are couples,” said Casaja Fritzler, a team member and family support provider at Bighorn Valley Health Center. “I feel like it’s an important piece because we want this to be a good place for families and children and parents.”
 
According to Sara Aye, co-founder and executive director of Greater Good Studio, it was important for grant applicants to come from a “multi-disciplinary group.” Categories for such a group, she continued, included people working in health care, education and child-focused occupations.
 
“They wrote a really good application where they talked about both the challenges in this community – which are certainly very, very important – but also the assets,” she said. “What we were looking for in our communities was that they could take an asset-based approach, that they weren’t so deficit-focused as to say there is no hope.
 
“This group has a lot of passion and positivity, despite obstacles they have encountered.”
 
Megkian Doyle, convener for the design team, said they needed to go through a significant amount of “homework” prior to the day’s idea lab – “gathering data, calling people, meeting with people” and more. That way, she continued, ideas can come from the community rather than from an outside source.
 
Doyle, who taught English and journalism at Lodge Grass High School from 1999 to 2002, said the design team and she would have done the work whether they had the grant or not. There might never be “enough money,” “the right moment” or “enough time,” she continued, but everyone involved wants to change Lodge Grass for the better.
 
“That’s where we’re from and that’s where our heart’s at,” said team member Alvin Fritzler, who also is Casaja’s husband. “With or without the grant, we’re going after Lodge Grass.”
 
In a decade or so, Alvin – a Crow Tribe Fish and Game employee – intends to move to a new project: the tribal acquisition of the Bighorn River.
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